Prattville – A proposed amendment to change the current smoking ordinance for Prattville food and beverage establishments failed Tuesday night by a Council vote of 3-4. If the amendment had passed, children under 19 years of age would not have been allowed to work in or enter a smoking section in those businesses.
Council President Dean Argo, Councilman Tom Miller, and Councilman Ray Boles voted in favor of the amendment’s passing; Councilman Bill Gillespie, Councilman Willie Wood Jr., Councilman Mike Renegar, and Councilman Nathan Fank cast their votes against the proposal.
Before the vote was taken, Argo spoke passionately about the reasons he supported the amendment.
“This is about protecting the children,” he said. “We’ve had people speak here tonight and say that they make the decisions for their children and that’s great. But, children don’t get a vote in this situation … they cannot choose for themselves.”
Miller, who introduced the amendment, said that he believed that it is the responsibility of the government to protect its citizens, but Boles cited a much more personal reason for voting in favor of the amendment.
“My daughter has asthma,” said Boles. “If she is around smoking, then she is sick for the next week. Normally I don’t believe in government interfering with businesses, but blood is thicker than water in this case for me.”
Local businesses owners displayed opposition to the change, citing concerns about losing business and employees. Jose Perez, owner of Jose’s Cantina in the city, stated that it should be up to the parents where they take their children and several local citizens spoke in agreement with his feelings.
After the meeting, Renegar said that his decision to vote nay was an especially hard one for him.
“I have spent my life taking care of young people and nurturing them along the right path from scouting to Dixie Youth baseball, so this decision was a conflicting one for me,” said Renegar. “But, I’ve always thought that we created a groundbreaking ordinance when we passed this (in 2003) and my daddy always told me that if you’ve got something working well, don’t tinker with it. Ultimately, I feel that the decision should lay in the hands of the parents.”
Article by Melissa Parker
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